Zoya Khan has two degrees and one masters to her credit; a Bachelors in Technology (B.Tech), Bachelors in Commerce (B.Com) and Masters in Business Administration (MBA). She had the opportunity to work with dyslexic kids and be a part of their life’s journey when she decided to do a few certificate courses. Zoya did a few workshops for teaching special needs children. She counselled parents of differently-abled kids as they weren’t ready to accept them. At one of the meets, she met a person who helped abuse (all kinds) victims. Zoya moved on to assist with counselling them too. After shifting base to Hyderabad (India), she has not been affiliated with any organisation. But Zoya continues to help victims of abuse through online counselings. She is currently pursuing a course in Clinical Psychology. Zoya has also developed her passion in crocheting into a business and CuddliciousZ was born. Her breastfeeding journey was no cakewalk, but sail through the hurdles she did.
1. How has your experience been at the hospital with the doctors and nurses?
My journey has been relatively easy. My hospital folks were well aware of my choices. I was lucky in being able to choose a breastfeeding friendly hospital and doctors. I was heavily sedated due to an allergic reaction to local anaesthesia. My husband was there the whole time. He said that within a few minutes of delivery, Ziyaan was cleaned up and immediately brought for his first feed. Ever since, the only things that pacified him was breast milk and Kangaroo care.
2. A hospital and doctor (along with nurses) who respect your decision leads to a great experience. How did your breastfeeding journey continue?
The first day was physically difficult especially because it was uncomfortable to sit up due to the stitches. Lying down and feeding wasn’t an option as he was tiny and me huge (haha). When he cried and the reason zeroed down to hunger, the nurses expressed off me. They fed him using a paladai whenever I couldn’t hold him properly to feed him directly. The nurses have been really helpful.
Ziyaan was diagnosed with physiological jaundice and apart from photo-therapy, breast milk was a must according to the doctors. Although we had established the perfect latch by the second day, the doctors felt I wasn’t making enough. They put me on medication and within a few hours, I was overflowing leaving both of us immensely happy. In fact, I leaked even when my kid was nursing at 2.5 years.
The four days in the hospital felt like a vacation. At the risk of sounding like their marketing manager, I always recommend The Birthplace, Banjara Hills (India) to every mother. They have been extremely supportive during our entire stay. On being discharged, the nutritionist gave me valuable tips on food that would help increase my supply. I dint have to rely on medicines.
3. Was it all smooth after you got home too?
I was advised by my then pediatrician that a pump would help if I had to go back to work. Even if I needed some rest, my husband could feed the pumped milk. We picked up one on our way back and I must say it was God sent. Due to issues with my back, sitting and nursing for long hours was taking a toll on me. We found it easier to manually pump and feed him the expressed milk.
After we got home, the only difficulty we had was maintaining the right position. As I did not have a feeding pillow, we had to use the regular cushions. After a point, we mastered that too and it has been smooth ever since. And we did not have to use the pump too.
4. How has your experience been with nursing in public (NIP)?
I found it easier to nurse on the go with the baby in a carrier. I was aware of Babywearing since my granny spoke of the days she wore my mother. My mother showed me how to wrap my son in a do-it-yourself (DIY) cotton cloth.
When out for longer hours, I would use the 2-tshirt method, a stole to cover myself or the DIY wrap. The stole idea backfired as Ziyaan disliked being covered and it would always result in a boob flash. Also, call me a snob (haha), but I was more concerned about how I would look if I breastfed in a hand-made cloth wrap. And hence, ran a search on affordable Indian brands in baby carriers. Soul had just started (with ring slings). Due to my health conditions with respect to my shoulder and back, we couldn’t do ring slings. I hadn’t heard of Anmol Baby Carriers until very late. By the time Ziyaan turned 6 months, we found Almitra Tattva and got ourselves a Meh Dai. Nursing while travelling couldn’t have been more comfortable.
I found smaller cities to be friendlier in terms of NIP. I’ve breastfed in restaurants and in remote areas of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (all Indian states) without any issues. In fact, some ladies in these towns have even taught me how to breastfeed in not so friendly salwar suits. The airports in Madhya Pradesh had dedicated rooms where I could breastfeed. Unfortunately, in Hyderabad I’ve been asked to be discreet or even shown the way to the washroom.
5. Did you feel the need to join support groups on Facebook (FB) to help you sail through your breastfeeding journey?
I read a lot and I like learning new things. I had started reading about all this even before Ziyaan was conceived. In fact, I did not know that FB support groups even existed till he turned a year old. I joined a few babywearing groups and through them stumbled upon the support groups. Joined quite a few back then but now just part of a few that I found nice.
6. How did you manage breastfeeding when you went back to work?
The company I worked with was mom friendly and accommodating in terms of policies. But they lacked in terms of implementation of the same. When I rejoined work, Ziyaan was in the office crèche. My boss gave me the extra time to go and feed him directly. While my immediate bosses and the HR top management helped me a lot, the middle management ruined it. They lacked insight. A new HR recruit even said, “Why don’t you keep your child somewhere and come to work”. A week was how long I lasted there.
7. How aware were you of post-partum depression (PPD)?
I was quite aware and when it happened to me I knew it is for real. I was lonely after my husband’s paternity leave ended. A new baby, with no physical or emotional support, plus a zillion other reasons got me down. I sought help as soon as I realised I was slipping into depression. My gynaecologist held my hand through it and although it took close to year, I successfully overcame it.
8. Considering you had sciatica and had your struggles, would you say breastfeeding is easy?
It isn’t easy but it’s all about your willpower I guess. A lot of new mothers are pressurised by family beliefs. Some are even made to believe that they don’t make enough. I am not judging as I know a mother is allowed to make her choices. While formula is the next best option, I always advice mothers to keep it as the last choice; only after they have exhausted all the other options to help work their breastfeeding journey.
Thanks to all the reading I had done, I was aware of growth spurts and hence was mentally prepared. But due to PPD, I developed an aversion towards breastfeeding which I thankfully got over by getting help at the right time. I had milk blisters and I can’t explain how terrible it was. I had almost given up but it was sheer willpower that had me going.
It’s not easy to stop what one is doing and start feeding on demand. Not easy to wake up every two hours when one is in terrible pain and hasn’t slept a wink for days. I suffer from hyperthyroidism, terrible mood swings, pains, multiple allergies, constant back pain due to slip disc and pregnancy induced sciatica. If I can still breastfeed in spite of these hurdles, so can you.
9. At 3.7 years, you and Ziyaan continue to share an amazing breastfeeding journey. Tell us a little more.
Honestly, after two years of breastfeeding, I wanted to stop. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended period was over and I could safely wean him. But then, I lost my mom and Ziyaan fell ill. He had stopped eating due to the illness and breast milk was the only thing we could fall back on.
We were constantly travelling during that time and breast milk ensured that he was never ever hungry. It also kept him hydrated. Emotionally we both needed each other.
At 3 years, I tried to wean him off again but it turned out to be emotionally stressful for him. Just one day and he had terrible nightmares. The truth was, even I felt I couldn’t let go. So I decided to let him wean on his own. But we have limited the nursing sessions to just thrice in a day and he understands and has been co-operative.
At 3.7 years, you will have to deal with a lot of unwanted pressure to wean. I have to bear the torment of comments of how breastfeeding is spoiling my son. And how he is going to be attached to me forever. His lean physique is also linked to breastmilk because apparently DNA has nothing to do with height and weight. :/ 😀
My only support system was and is my husband. I’m actually glad in that sense. Sticking to our belief system and choices was easier than succumbing to family or societal pressure.